Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Antithesis


def.: two contrasting ideas placed in close proximity to make a point*

as in

Some people are so exceptionally good at using antitheses to emphasize their point that it is nearly impossible to not be swept away by their ideas.

Writers (and speakers) have many tools available to them that help articulate ideas in a clear, concise, and appealing way for their audience. An antithesis is one of these tools. If you want to use an antithesis, keep one thing in mind:
  • The contrasting ideas must be balanced. That means they need to contain about the same number of words, they need to use the same tense (past, present, infinitive, gerund, etc.), and they need to be opposites.

For Example
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong, on the moon

Notice the opposites: small/giant, step/leap, man/mankind
Notice the word count: 6/5
Notice the balance: one something for someone (and repeat)

For Example
"We have found ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spirit; reaching with magnificent precision for the moon, but falling into raucous discord on earth." - Richard Nixon, inaugural address

Notice the opposites: rich/ragged & goods/spirit; reaching/falling, precision/discord, & moon/earth
Notice the word count: 3/3, 6/7
Notice the balance: rich/ragged, but reaching/falling

Leaders have been using this rhetorical trick for hundreds of years. Join the leaders and impress everyone you know: use antitheses!

*Antithesis is also the word used to describe the second, contrasting idea; for example: his opinion of the movie is the antithesis of mine. See more at Merriam-Webster.

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